Ilya Kovalchuk scored on a breakaway with 20 seconds left in the extra period to give Atlanta its first win over the Penguins, 3-2 Monday night.
“We never beat this team before, so it’s a happy new year for us right now,” said Kovalchuk, whose second career overtime goal was also his 21st goal of the season. “We feel good. Every time we would lose by one goal or maybe two, but today we won.”
It was Atlanta’s first victory in 15 games against the Penguins since joining the NHL three seasons ago.
“Any time you don’t beat a hockey club for three and a half years, it’s fun to beat them,” Atlanta interim coach and GM Don Waddell said. “I give the guys a lot of credit. We played hard and we battled hard.”
Kovalchuk’s shot, which beat Jean-Sebastien Aubin between the legs, was the only shot the Thrashers took in overtime.
Defenseman Daniel Tjarnqvist started the play by kicking the puck toward his own blue line.
“I knew I had to take the puck, because Mario Lemieux was right behind me,” Tjarnqvist said. “I think (Kovalchuck) missed maybe one time on a breakaway now in two seasons.”
Atlanta’s victory came three days after the Thrashers beat Carolina for the first time, 5-3, and it improved Waddell’s record to 2-1 behind the bench.
“We’re all competing harder,” Atlanta’s Shawn McEachern said. “That four-on-three power play in overtime was tough to take, but every time they did get a chance, our goaltender stopped them.”
Kraft completed his first career two-goal game with just 5:53 to play in regulation by converting a pass from behind the net from Martin Straka. His first goal at 9:51 of the second period extended his scoring streak to a career-best seven games.
Atlanta built a 2-0 first-period lead on a pair of special-team goals. Defenseman Andy Sutton scored his first career short-handed goal at 4:46 by converting a pass from Per Svartvadet, who appeared to be offside entering the Pittsburgh zone on the right wing.
The Thrashers took a 2-0 lead at 17:39 when Dany Heatley set up in the slot and took a pass from Kovalchuk on the power play. It was Heatley’s 10th goal of the season and second in three games since returning from a groin injury.
“I thought we had a sluggish first period,” said Pittsburgh coach Rick Kehoe, whose team had won its previous four games. “We picked it up in the second. But give those guys credit—they have been playing hard the last fewgames.”
Moran played in his 400th career game, while Kovalchuk played in his 100th. … Atlanta’s Patrik Stefan got his 100th career point, assisting on Heatley’s goal. … The Thrashers have allowed just six goals since Waddellreplaced Curt Fraser as coach.